Schwartz: Fans Are Missing Out On Red Bull Arena

I had seen photos and video of the tarps that are now covering some of the seats at Red Bull Arena, but I hadn’t seen it in person until Sunday when I went to the Hudson River Derby match between the Red Bulls and NYCFC. Attendance for Red Bulls home games is not where it should be for a franchise that, although they haven’t won an MLS Cup, has won three Supporters Shields since 2013 for best regular season record in the league.

The Red Bulls put a good product on the field and they have a great facility but yet we’re still seeing empty blue seats and some of them are covered up by a tarp. Where is everybody?

You can’t tell me that there aren’t enough soccer fans in the area to support the team because that’s just nonsense and I’ve been in the building many times in the past when it’s been full. Not every game is going to be a sellout although there are probably some fans and media that feel the team should be filling the building on a regular basis. But to me, the tarps are a signal that something is wrong and it’s pretty sad.

I love Red Bull Arena. To me, it’s THE BEST sports facility in the New York/New Jersey area and I wish it wasn’t such a schlep for me to get there from my home on Long Island. It’s an amazing experience from the moment you step foot on the grounds, wether you drive there or take public transportation. The “Bullevard”, an interactive area with games and contests located outside the stadium keeps you busy before the game. It’s just a terrific way for fans to get ready for the game.

The stadium is just magnificent with great sight lines from every seat (even the ones that are hiding under the tarps) and fabulous amenities for fans of all ages. I just don’t get why the team has trouble filling the seats and I know first hand it’s not from a lack of trying. This is a franchise that does so much work in the community and has struck some great partnerships with sponsors. Each and every person in this organization, from management down to the coaches, players and staff deserves to have better support, especially as the team battles for another spot in the playoffs and hopefully someday that elusive MLS Cup.

Personally, I probably had the best time that I ever had at a game on Sunday night. My kids had a blast at the Bullevard before the game, my wife arranged for a “Happy Birthday” message on the video screen, we had great seats, and the Red Bulls beat their cross town rivals NYCFC 2-1. Now that’s what you call a happy birthday! It was just a great night and the crowd that filled the available seating made for an electric atmosphere.

There are some built in excuses as to why attendance is not where it should be. Like I mentioned, it’s a haul for some fans in the area. I noticed last night that the parking is a bit better than it’s been in the past but there still continues to be construction in the area. I think it would be easier for fans if there was a more direct way to get from the lots onto 280 in either direction. The new PATH station looks really nice and I just might consider and LIRR trip and a PATH ride to a game this season.

Red Bull Arena is an awesome stadium and the Red Bulls provide terrific family affordable sports entertainment. There are tons of kids playing soccer in the New York/New Jersey area and certainly plenty more in Connecticut along with so many adult soccer fans. Maybe I’m showing my age, but I still have great memories of going to Cosmos games back in the day at Giants Stadium. I know it’s not realistic to turn back the clock to crowds of 60,000 or 70,000 because we’re not talking about Pele, Chinaglia, and Beckenbauer.

But with the success the Red Bulls have had, how great the stadium is, and how popular the sport of soccer has become, all 25,000 seats at Red Bull Arena should be filled more frequently. Now that we’re into the summer months, perhaps it will be easier for people to budget more time to come to games and enjoy a soccer experience that is second to none.

By the way, I’m sure the NYCFC fans that were in attendance Sunday night would love to have their team playing in a stadium like Red Bull Arena. It has a full soccer field, a great view from every seat, and there’s no foul poles. That would love to be taken out to a soccer game and with a crowd in a real soccer stadium.

Sorry I couldn’t resist!

About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz is a contributor covering the Islanders for NY Sports Day while also writing about general sports in the New York/New Jersey area. In addition to his column, Peter also hosts his “Schwartz On Sports” podcast as he interviews players, coaches, and other sports personalities. He is also currently a sports anchor for WFAN Radio, CBS Sports Radio, and WCBS 880 radio while also serving as the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos soccer club.

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